Home > A Hollywood Bride (Billionaires' Brides of Convenience #2)

A Hollywood Bride (Billionaires' Brides of Convenience #2)
Author: Nadia Lee

Chapter One



Paige refuses to have me in the room with her, insisting I stay outside. Does she blame me for what happened? I’m sure her fall had something to do with the bleeding. I can’t think of any other reason she’d have issues, because up to that point she’d been thriving as a pregnant woman, glowing and happy. Not even any morning sickness.

If I hadn’t rushed in at the club, Anthony wouldn’t have pushed her. And so she wouldn’t have fallen… I rub my face, then find a waiting room. A worn poster on the wall cites the dangers of cell phone use inside the hospital, something about how mobile devices interfere with medical equipment. I turn mine off. I don’t want anything to mess with the care Paige is getting, but not having something to distract myself with is painful. There are so many ugly thoughts and possibilities going through my mind…and the atmosphere here doesn’t help.

There’s a difference between movie hospitals and real hospitals. Movie hospital sets smell normal. They don’t give you that reflexive recoil in the deepest part of your heart. Real hospitals are the opposite. Decades of accumulated anxiety, misery, illness, and despair have settled in thick layers that no amount of chlorine can erase.

I park my butt in a molded plastic chair designed to be both uncomfortable and ugly and pull my baseball cap down. A large pair of dark sunglasses covers most of my face, but it’s my busted lip that seems to be making people hesitant to assume I am who I am—Ryder Reed, one of the hottest movie stars in Hollywood. I’ve done some action flicks, but I’ve never gotten into a public fistfight.

Still, curious gazes slide over me. I ignore them. I like to engage with the public and my fans—actors are mostly extroverts—but only on my own terms, and certainly not in some dingy ER waiting room.

The clock on the wall ticks interminably, and my eyes gradually become gritty and unfocused. And my ass is getting numb. Damn it, how long does it take to see if Paige’s all right? I guess the doctors want to be thorough and run all the appropriate tests.

Unless… Nausea roils in my belly. Unless the unthinkable has happened.

“Hey, are you that movie star?”

The boyish voice startles me out of my reverie. A child who looks like an animated marshmallow stands in front of me. A dingy white t-shirt and faded jeans don’t improve his appearance. He’s short enough that even seated my upper stomach is at his eye level. He’s five…maybe six.

“My brother said you are,” the boy adds, when I don’t respond.

Another boy joins him. He looks like the first, except slightly bigger and rounder and whiter. He’s so pale he practically glows under the neon lighting.

He pokes the smaller boy. “Told ya, dumbass. That’s Ryder Reed.”

“Did you get into a fight?” the younger boy asks, widening his eyes.

The older boy is entirely too gleeful. “Of course, he did. Look at his mouth. Bam!” he shouts as he makes a punching motion.

He’s drawing attention to me, and I grimace. Where the hell is his mother?

The bigger one points at my mouth. “He’s here to get treated for that lip.”

“Who did you fight?” the younger boy asks.

The older boy says, “It’s gotta be that girl.”

“What girl?”

“The fat one. She came in all bloody.”

As ridiculous as their conversation is, the muscles in my face start to tighten. This is how rumors start, and I need to put an end to the bullshit right now. “It wasn’t the girl. I do not hit women.”

“That’s not true.” The older boy sniffs disdainfully, his mouth set in a knowing sneer that seems wrong on such a young face. “I watched Lethal Connection. You fought that chick, then punched her and stuff. Man, that was so awesome! The bitch went down!”

“Yeah!” The younger kid pumps a fist above his head. “Bitches need to go down!”

I stare at the children, horrified at their language and stunned that they’ve seen that movie. It was rated R for…well, pretty much everything. Violence, excessive nudity, profanity. You name it.

I lean forward. “Okay, c’mere.” They come in closer. “First, you shouldn’t say the b-word. It’s not nice. Second, she wasn’t a normal person, but a genetically enhanced humanoid cyborg.”

The younger kid lowers his voice to a stage whisper. “Then why was the girl who came with you bleeding? If you didn’t knock her out?”

His brother is still going off. “I bet she was being all bitchy and had to be put in her place.”

I feel like there’s a ticking bomb in my head. Kids this young pick up stuff from their parents. If this is their attitude, maybe it explains why their mother is nowhere to be seen. Or maybe they picked it up from R-rated movies they should never have been allowed to watch in the first place.

I make a time out gesture with my hands. “Listen, both of you. You can’t talk about women like that.”

The squishy nostrils flare on the older kid’s flushed face. “Why not?”

I grind my teeth. If this bratty kid were mine…

When I don’t bother to answer, he gets in my face. “Why the hell not?”

“I told you: because it’s not nice. Now, go find your mother and leave me alone, or I’m going to call the cops,” I say, giving them Serious Look Number Two. I’m not going to do that, of course. But I figure it should scare them.

It doesn’t.

Both boys start screaming and yelling. My head hurts even more, and I’m ready to call somebody—anybody—to come take these mini-psychos away from me.

A woman hustles toward me. She is obviously the prototype for the two marshmallow children, except larger and female. “Hey, what did you do to my kids?”

What the hell? “Nothing. They came over to talk to me. Which you would’ve noticed if you’d been watching them.”

She puts her hands on her hips. “What are you implying? I’m a good mother!” She raises her voice. “I take care of my kids, I watch ’em, and I teach ’em right!”

“You mean like letting them see movies like Lethal Connection?”

“This is America. Freest country in the world, and I’m entitled to let my kids watch whatever they want. I’m not some brainwashed statist!”

Clearly, I need to exit this conversation. At the same time, I’m stressed and about to erupt because her annoying kids think it’s okay to bother me when I’m doing my best not to talk to anybody. My fame does not give them the right to intrude into my private life. “Just take your kids and go away. Please.”

But Mrs. Marshmallow isn’t going to leave it alone. She starts to get in my face and scream hysterically about what a fit mother she is. She even demands that I apologize. For what? I haven’t said a single thing that isn’t true, and it’s not my fault she lets her kids watch R-rated movies and use foul language. The volume of her voice cannot make up for her lack of manners and common sense.

Unfortunately, her hysterics are drawing attention. I grit my teeth. Add this to the list of reasons I hate hospitals.

A young nurse comes over. She’s a tall, attractive blonde with light brown eyes and full lips that are currently turned down in disapproval. Still, she maintains her composure. Her ponytail swings as she turns to the loud woman first. “Ma’am, you need to be quiet. Or I’ll have to have security escort you out of the building until you calm down.”

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